Monday, September 24, 2012

Is It Time for a Harris County Recall Law? - Part 2

(For those who don’t already know, Harris County still elects County School Trustees who collect a countywide education property tax almost 50 years after all students in Harris County moved out of the countywide school system and into ISDs. It is the only school board in Texas elected by Party. Currently there are 5 “Republicans” and 2 Democrats on the Board. You can read more here. Also, to prevent confusion, know that Harris County’s School Trustees operate and tax under the “assumed name” – Harris County Department of Education - HCDE.)

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This is the second in a series showing how far one group of elected Republican Harris County officials has veered from the Texas Republican Platform, thus arguing the need for a county recall law.

 Part 1 gave examples of two sections of the Texas GOP Platform completely ignored by the “Republican” led Harris County School Trustees:
#1 – “… taxes established for a particular purpose shall not be used for any other purpose”  and
#2 – “… oppose paying lobbyists with tax dollars”

Now, let’s look at a few more sections of the Texas GOP Platform that have been totally ignored by these elected officials.


Because the HCDE Trustees will be holding Public Hearings on 9/27/12 and 10/9/12 to enable them to legally pass a TAX INCREASE on 10/23/12, this article will take a close look at  how well the HCDE Trustees oversee Harris County Education Dollars and how they plan to spend the added monies collected by their tax increase.

The Texas GOP Platform reads:
“We encourage all governments and agencies to live as frugally as all taxpayers do and to abhor the excessive spending on non-critical items …”

What  is “non-critical”  school spending?  Thesaurus lists synonyms for “critical” as “crucial”- “essential” -“vital”. That would mean to me that anything “non-crucial” - “non-essential” - “non-vital”  would be excessive school spending.

But you can decide for yourself.

Was it excessive school spending when the “Republican” HCDE Board President, Angie Chesnut, traveled to San Antonio to attend the Texas Association of School Board Leadership Institute, and charged Harris County taxpayers: 
  sanfran111
$466.66 for car rental expenses?

$203.00 per night for a room?

$99.00 for valet parking ?

$53.49  for her dinner ?

$36.40 + $45.79  for room service ?



When - in contrast -  Democrat HCDE Trustee, Debra Kerner, was able to make the same trip  charging the taxpayers only:

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$197.70 mileage (less than 1/2 of Chesnut’s)

$186.00 per night for her room ($17 less)

$25.00 to self park



No room service and $23.54 for her dinner (less than 1/2 of Chesnut’s.)


Or was it OK for the Board President to pamper herself with extras like room service, valet parking and $$$ dinners while traveling on school business because, after all, it is only taxpayer money?


Was it excessive school spending when newly elected HCDE “Republican” Trustee Marvin Morris needed training on how to be a Harris County School Trustee, and he chose to gain his knowledge by attending the National School Board Association Annual Conference in SAN FRANCISCO, CA instead of a Texas location? 

Was it excessive school spending when he was joined by his wife, the HCDE Superintendent John Sawyer and his wife, fellow HCDE Trustees Michael Wolfe and Debra Kerner, as well as an HCDE “consultant” Richard Griffin and his wife for his weekend of training trip to San Francisco?   (HCDE claims spouses paid their own airfare and meals)

Documents acquired through open records show the reason given for Harris County education funds paying for three Trustees, one administrator and a “consultant” to spend the weekend in San Francisco was: 

To network with other board members across the region and gather insight and skills to assist our organization and districts we service in these trying times.  We will learn strategies to maximize our resources and bring back innovative ideas.”
Just how did the HCDE Trustees “maximize” our Harris County education “resources” in these “trying times” while they were in San Francisco?

Grand Hyatt San Francisco Union Square, San Francisco, United States of AmericaFirst, records show no Motel 6 nights for this group. Trustee Debra Kerner chose to stay at the San Francisco Marriot Marquis for $262.33 per night while the others chose the Grand Hyatt San Francisco for only $216.12 per room per night. And no sharing of rooms like teachers have to do.  Each HCDE Trustee, administrator and “consultant” had their own room for three nights paid with Harris County education funds.
Downtown Convenience

And while in San Francisco learning “how to maximize resources,” the group ate at some pretty nice restaurants paid by Harris County taxpayers.


wine 

Receipts acquired through open records show when the HCDE group dined at the Brazilian Steakhouse, Espetus Churrascaria, the Superintendent did subtract his bottle of $42 Abadia Rituerta  wine from the $713.07 dinner tab. But no mark outs are shown on the receipt for Capote Tinta Roriz or Baileys coffee.





Do you consider a meal where just the TAX + TIP totaled $177.77 to be frugal use of taxpayer funds?







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Well, at least it was more frugal than the group’s next meal out together when they were in the mood for Italian cuisine. That night they chose The North Beach Restaurant, where their total bill came to $1,026.00.

That night TAX + TIP alone was $243.87 of Harris County  education dollars.



















And then there was the $860 PER PERSON conference registration fee, air fare, baggage fees, taxis, airport limo service, ……… all paid for with Harris County education  funds.

Remember the excuse HCDE gave to travel to San Francisco for the weekend?  --- to “bring back innovative ideas.”

So what great report did the travelers present at their next HCDE Board of Trustees meeting on 4/19/11?

The minutes read:
Other reports from Board members concerning attendance or participation in a board or HCDE-related conference, event, activity, or committee; …
  • Jim Henley reported on his attendance to the EcoBot Challenge Saturday, April16, 2011.
  • Debra Kerner reported on her attendance to the National School Board Association (NSBA) Convention in San Francisco April 8-11, 2011; the Head Start policy council meeting; and the EcoBot Challenge. She announced that she would like to dispel rumors that she is running for city council.  She confirmed that she is thinking about running for city council but has not made a definitive decision.
  • Jimmy Wynn addressed the Board regarding current legislation and state funding/budget.      

So, do you think  their weekend trip to San Francisco was “critical” - “vital” –“essential” to our schools or was it excessive spending?
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Records show that on the list of HCDE vendor payments of over $2000 from HCDE Procurement cards, HCDE Trustees approved $148,767.41 just for airlines and hotels from last September to July. 


This amount  DOES NOT include any payments or reimbursements billed through other means. 

It also does not include reimbursements made for meals, taxi and limo services, room service, mileage, or other travel expenses.

The Ritz-Carlton
Records show billing the taxpayers for room service is common practice at HCDE, especially for administrators and consultants staying at high end establishments like the Ritz-Carlton.

roomservice119  roomservice118 roomservice116 roomservice115

The following chart shows examples of other recent payments approved by the “Republican” HCDE Board of Trustees.


Were they ALL really “critical” - “vital” –“essential” to the operation of Harris County public schools?  Or were they “non-essentials” –--- items that did not increase student learning?

Date
Payee
Purpose
Amount
CAFE EXPRESS
BUSINESS MTG MEAL
$643.96
7/11/12
DR RICHARD A GRIFFIN
EXPENSES
$1756.72
7/16/12
Rotary Club of Houston
Membership Dues
$500.00
7/18/12
MELBA ANN KENT
TRVL REIMB
$2170.00
Hungry Farmer BBQ
Business Meeting
$1067.50
8/8/12
John Sawyer
(Superintendent)
Travel Reimbursement
$2244.78
8/15/12
4Imprint
16oz Spirit Tumbler
+ Pisces Pocket Tote
$965.76
8/16/12
RELIANT BUSINESS PRODUCTS, INC.
MONTHLY COFFEE / TEA ORDE
$1834.44
8/29/12
TAVISTOCK FREEBIRDS LLC
Box Lunches to Include Freshly Brewed Iced Tea
$730.28



Have these “Republican” led Trustees demonstrated to taxpayers that they follow the GOP Platform and govern so frugally that they should be entrusted with a tax increase that will raise an extra $1 million from Harris County property taxes?


Before you decide, you need to know what their plans are for the extra $1 million in new tax revenue this rate increase will collect.


hcde #18064 HCDE has developed a business plan for a new  “entrepreneurial venture” called “Texas Cloud Consortium (TCC).” They estimate they  will need $1 million to get it up and running.


It is modeled after their last “entrepreneurial venture” called Choice Facilities Partners (CFP), which HCDE recently  merged with their two purchasing co-ops to form a single entity called “Choice Partners(CP).”


Just what is the CFP part of CP?

It is a service sold by  HCDE to procure contacts for governmental entities and non-profits all across the United States. To learn more, you can read all about their procurement process here.

  Their website describes it this way:
Choice Partners Cooperative offers quality, legal procurement and contract solutions to meet government purchasing requirements. Staff at Choice Partners complete the legal, competitively bid government procurement process so YOU can act immediately to access the contract YOU need, saving time and money on the bidding process and purchase…..
Their online brochure explains their “transparent” process as well as the fact that CFP does all the legwork but the HCDE Board of Trustees actually “awards the contacts.” All this for a “No Cost Membership”  into the co-op for government and non-profit clients.

CP states that  “the cooperative wins by receiving a small percentage for their work in bidding, awarding and managing the contract.”


On the surface it appears that CP’s “NO COST MEMBERSHIP” means “NO COST TO MEMBERS”  and “small percentage” sounds “small”. So what’s the problem?


First, the Texas GOP Platform reads:
 All government contracts should be awarded by competitive bids. We call upon all levels of government to allow the awarding of contracts, requiring performance and payment bonds, be awarded to the lowest bidder.”


roomservice120Second, the  “Republican” HCDE Board of Trustees approve government contracts in their business ventures using a subjective point system.  Price is only weighted 30% in the criteria.

The vendor’s “past relationship with HCDE” is given weight.



Third, the “No Cost Membership” is not free. True, the government entity or non-profit clients do not pay HCDE directly. The clients pay the vendors for their services. Then HCDE bills the vendor a percentage of the payment received from the client as their “administrative fee.”

Documents acquired through open records show the percentage vendors pay back to HCDE from the contacts awarded through CFP range anywhere from 1% all the way to 40%.

Records show many governmental entities have used CFP only to save time when a repair is needed quickly, not for bids that are not time sensitive.

But taxpayers need to be aware that some governmental entities are using HCDE services to save themselves time and effort but not necessarily saving tax dollars. After reading through the invoices it is now obvious to me WHY the Texas GOP Platform mentions the bidding process for government contracts in the first place.

I have made a chart for quick viewing of some of the invoices for “administrative fees” HCDE has billed their vendors. I have attached a scan of the invoice on the right for those who would like to print a copy.

Some invoices look more to me like “redistribution of tax dollars” than a “small” fee for services, but you can decide for yourself. As you read the last three, remember the  beginning salary  for teachers in these districts is  $35,000 - $45,000 per year. That means one contract through HCDE may have saved the administration time and effort, but it could also cost the district a teacher.

Client
Vendor
Administrative
Fee paid to HCDE
Work Order  Total
%
Scan of Invoice
Tarrant County
College District
Tradition
Energy
$62,737.00
$190,112.12
  33
cfp135
Harris County
MUD #230
TF Harper
$50,214.08
$2,539,500.00
   2
cfp121
Nueces County
Johnson Controls
$237,229.71
$7,930,497.00
   3
cfp123
Tarrant County
College District
Tradition
Energy
$15,530.00
$103,533.33
  15
cfp139
Galveston Parks & Recreation
Johnson Controls
$73,505.96
$2,456,626.70
   3
cfp124
Crowley ISD
Tradition Energy
$17,483.00
$43,707.50
  40
cfp138
Livingston ISD
Johnson Controls
$43,968.60
$1,465,620.00
   3
cfp125
Jayton-Girard ISD
Basic IDIQ
$64,170.24
$1,622,048.00
   4
cfp126
Port Arthur ISD
GroundFORCE
$63,088.92
$2,157,143.00
   3
cfp127







































An interesting item found in the documents shows that HCDE is using CFP to bid some of its own district contracts. That doesn’t sound odd until you look at the “administrative fee” invoices.

The “Republican” HCDE Trustees are approving HCDE’s own contracts for the “work order total” and then CFP bills the vendor for their “fee,” just like they do with other clients.

That means the monies can leave HCDE as “property tax funds” and can return to HCDE as “fees”  without the restrictions placed on use of tax dollars. Sounds again to me more like  a “redistribution” system than a “lowest bidder” model. Take a look at three invoices where HCDE was the client of its own “subsidiary”:







I have two questions?

1. Why is HCDE charging ITSELF from 4% - 15% to award its own contracts?

2. Is a vendor really the best deal for taxpayers if the vendor can afford to return to HCDE between 15% to 100%  of their work orders?

cfp137 The 100% “administrative fee” didn’t just show up when HCDE was the client.

CFP invoice #1200 dated 11/9/10 shows that Tarrant County College District taxpayers paid Tradition Energy a work order total of $25,317.00 --- then HCDE billed Tradition Energy  the entire amount as their “administrative fee.”

Did the Tarrant County taxpayers really get the lowest price?

Do the Tarrant County taxpayers know that $25,317 of their tax dollars were “re-distributed” to HCDE by way of their Tradition Energy contract?


After sorting through piles of CFP “administrative fee” invoices, I think the taxpayers who should have the most questions for their own elected officials are property owners in La Marque ISD and the Lone Star College system.

cfp130




Records show that from 2010-2011, La Marque ISD paid HCDE over $150,000.00 in CFP “administrative fees” --- or  you could say, 3 teachers worth.







And during the same time period, Lone Star College  paid HCDE closer to $700,000.00 in “administrative fees.”


With Lone Star College starting salaries at $52,000 ---  that would have been 14 faculty members.




After reviewing the documents , do you think the “Republican” HCDE Trustees should raise property taxes to collect $1 million to start another “entrepreneurial venture” like CFP?

Or, should they adhere to the Texas GOP Platform, leave tax rates where they are, and learn to live within their means like the taxpayers have to do?

You can let your elected Harris County School Trustees know how you feel about raising your tax rate by attending one of the HCDE  Public Hearings at 3:30pm on 9/27/12 or 10/9/12, or you can email them about any issue at the contacts below.


HCDE Trustees who voted to hold public hearings in order to give HCDE the option of raising the property tax rate:

Angie Chesnut (R), Board President - Precinct 4    mailto:achesnut@hcde-texas.org
Roy Morales (R) - Precinct 1 rmorales@hcde-texas.org
Debra Kerner (D) - At Large dkerner@hcde-texas.org


HCDE Trustees who voted NOT to hold hearings to allow HCDE to raise the property tax rate.
Marvin Morris (R) - Precinct 2 mmorris@hcde-texas.org
Michael Wolfe  (R) -  At Large mwolfe@hcde-texas.org


HCDE Trustees who were absent for the vote.
Louis D. Evans, III (R),  Board Vice-President - Precinct 3   levans@hcde-texas.org
Jim Henley -  At Large jhenley@hcde-texas.org


……Stay Tuned for Part 3………

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Is It Time for a Harris County Recall Law? – Part 1

Republican_RINO_2This is the first in a series showing how far one group of elected Republican Harris County officials has veered from the Texas Republican Platform, thus arguing the need for a county recall law.

(For those who don’t already know, Harris County still elects County School Trustees who  collect a countywide education property tax almost 50 years after all students in Harris County moved out of the countywide school system and into ISDs. It is the only school board in Texas elected by Party. Currently there are 5 “Republicans” and 2 Democrats on the Board. You can read more here. Also, to prevent confusion, know that Harris County’s School Trustees operate and tax under the “assumed name” -  HCDE.)


I would like to propose a new law. A law that allows voters to recall any elected official who runs for office on a party ticket in Harris County, Texas  and then votes to use public funds AGAIST the party platform. Such a law would allow voters to get rid of phony Republicans -  like  “Republican” Harris County School Trustees – quickly, instead of having to wait 6 years for their term of office to expire.

Take a look at how far this group of GOP elected public officials has veered from the Texas Republican Platform using our education dollars even though the Platform specifically states:
“Every Republican is responsible for implementing this platform”

Example #1   Texas GOP Platform reads:

We urge that taxes established for a particular purpose shall not be used for any other purpose.”


Yet, the  “Republican” HCDE Board of Trustees is treating Texas Education Code 18.14(b) the same way President Obama treats The Defense of Marriage Act – with complete disregard. Because DOMA does not fit into our President’s political agenda, he just ignores it or refuses to enforce it. 

tec18.14So, even though TEC 18.14(b) specifically states that the countywide education property tax called the “Equalization Tax” levied by the County School Trustees “shall be distributed to the …independent school districts of the county” according to the number of students per district, the HCDE Trustees have followed the lead of President Obama and chosen to simply ignore that particular law. I guess they have decided that they know better how to spend  education dollars than ISD Trustees, because HCDE spends the funds themselves and distributes NONE to the ISDs.


The “Republican” HCDE Board of Trustees also uses education funds to suit its desires by toying with words – just as we see The White House do with Obamacare - they claim for one purpose  it’s a “tax” and for another it is a “penalty.”

tec 18.26 So, even though TEC 18.26 specifically states that the countywide education property tax levied by the County School Trustees is for the advancement of public free schools in the county, the “Republican” HCDE Trustees simply remove the words “public,” “free", “schools,” or “county” when desired.


The website of one program they oversee describes its clientele  as:

schools, colleges and universities, municipalities, counties, education-related organizations and other governmental entities across the United States.”
Another example of the HCDE Trustees toying with words using our tax dollars:

MGT082 On their website when they are soliciting clients from all over the country, the County School Trustees add the word “beyond” to allow their jurisdiction to move outside Harris County and imply that they are elected to serve the entire nationwide education community by using the words  “education public.” 


 MGT083


Yet in their press release about the lawsuit the County School Trustees filed against Harris County, HCDE leaves out the words “beyond” and “education public” and sticks closer to Texas law by stating they provide services to “the general public and 26 school districts throughout Harris County.”





MGT084



The HCDE “Republican” Trustees  can also be compared to President Obama when he signs “Executive Orders” to advance his governmental authority. They have approved so many activities and enterprises so far beyond the boundaries of their county authority that the State Director of Texas Learns, Joanie Rethlake,  is  now listed as a “Local Government Officerof HCDE in purchasing coop requests for proposals.



Guess they have never bothered to read the Texas Republican Platform to know that Republicans in Texas expect Republican elected officials to use our tax dollars the way the law originally intended, not just any way they please.



Example #2     Texas GOP Platform reads:

 “We oppose paying lobbyists with tax dollars”…“We support legislation to prevent lobbying by any organization receiving federal grants except that relating to its tax status” …“We support the prohibition of any paid public school employee or contractor to lobby the legislature or the SBOE, unless on an unpaid basis and in an unofficial capacity”

First let’s define Lobbying: “the practice and profession of influencing governmental decisions, carried out by agents who present the concerns of special interests to legislators and administrators. The term originated in the United States of the 1830s, when representatives of interest groups tended to congregate in the lobbies of Congress and state legislatures. It is now used in a broader sense to include attempts to influence any governmental actions.”

MGT086 Many Harris County Republicans would be shocked to find that the five “Republican” Harris County School Trustees have used county education dollars to hire a Democrat Political Strategist, Pat Strong, to oversee  HCDE’s extensive lobbying efforts for years. Of course, they don’t give her the title of “HCDE Lobbyist”. That would be too honest. Instead they call her their “External Relations Liaison Officer” and list her as a member of the Harris County School Administration.



On her company website Pat Strong, who is also the owner of Strong Strategies, boasts a strong career with the Democrat Party:
“Pat served as Chief-of-Staff to Congressman Ken Bentsen (TX-25) for eight years until he left office in 2002.  Prior to working for Congress, Pat served as statewide field director for Governor Ann Richards’ campaign.  After working as local press secretary and Harris County early vote coordinator for Clinton/Gore in 1992, Pat joined the Democratic National Committee as the Texas State Coordinator on the National Healthcare Campaign.  All of these opportunities availed themselves as a result of Pat’s role as Senior Council Aide to Houston City Council Member Vince Ryan in the 80’s.”
Just what are the “Republican” HCDE Trustees approving county education funds for Pat Strong to do for HCDE?

Records show she regularly updates the “Republican” Trustees  via The HCDE  Government Relations Committee where the HCDE Trustees, administration, consultants, and lobbyists discuss their “Strategy with State Legislators.”

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She meets with Federal officials to discuss “HCDE’s role in bill considerations.”

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She even provided a private phone consultation with Trustee Roy Morales concerning The DREAM Act.

lobby106




Pat Strong is the tour guide when the HCDE Trustees or Administration take a trip to Washington, DC to lobby IN PERSON, even though HCDE receives a large portion of their budget from Federal Grants.  Receipts acquired through open records show HCDE “Republican” Trustees approved Pat Strong traveling to DC three times in one 14 month period.

lobby091
One trip was approved for $24,000 of our county education funds. That covered Pat Strong, 1 HCDE Assistant Superintendent, the 2 Democrat Trustees and 1 “Republican'” Trustee to spend three nights in Washington, DC at The Hotel Palomar  to attend “Congregational meetings.”





(I think they meant to write “Congressional Meetings.”)

The HCDE Request to Attend  documentation states the reason for the trip is “Congregational visits with US department of Education,” but the trip agenda outlines meetings with both members of Congress and the US Department of Education.



lobby092
Records show the “Republican” HCDE Trustees allow Pat Strong to use county education funds like a corporate expense account while traveling to lobby. On the first night of this particular trip in DC, Strong picked up the dinner tab for the group.

Dinner was $216.07 plus a $43.21 tip to total $259.28 in county education dollars.  But hand written on the receipt is the list of those dining. There is an extra person listed  who was not named on the HCDE travel request - “Wynn.”

Why are Harris County taxpayers picking up the tab for someone not listed by HCDE as traveling with their group? I have no idea. What I do know is that this wasn’t the only time taxpayers picked up the tab for an extra person on this trip.


lobby095
The same thing happened again the next night. Only this time Pat Strong identified the expense on her trip Itinerary as “Dinner with Special Guest: Former Congressman Jim Chapman.”

Two points stand out about this dinner.

First, only four names are written on the receipt as having dined with this group - and they happen to all be Democrats  -  Pat Strong, the 2 Democrat Trustees,  and a former Democrat Congressman.

They all dined together on a meal costing $267.85 plus a $55.00 tip for a grand total of $322.85 in Harris County education funds - all given the stamp of approval by a “Republican" Board.





lobby093

But, much more interesting is the second point about this dinner. Notice there are two separate receipts. One for “refreshments” and one for “dinner.”
Now, had they gone to one location for appetizers and another for dinner, there would be no eyebrows raised.

But take a closer look.

Both receipts were paid by Patti Strong at 9:15 pm.
Both receipts were for table #142.
Both receipts were from server, Mat  and
Both receipts are NOT ITEMIZED.

The old saying goes, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a  duck, it most likely is a duck  - but you will have to decide for yourself.


lobby096
For her next trip to Washington, DC , “Republican” Trustees approved $8,400  of our county education dollars for Pat Strong, as well as ,the HCDE Superintendent and 2 Assistant Superintendents to spend three nights at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City to attend the “AASA 2010 Legislative Advocacy Conference.”



The HCDE Request to Attend Document  states the reason for the trip is “To hear briefings on what will be the current status of the reauthorization of ESEA in Congress and also visit our Congressional delegation on Capital Hill.”



lobby090crop3


But in her Monthly Status Report as HCDE External Relations Liaison Officer, Pat Strong stated that she met with Massie Ritsch and the US Department of Education concerning not only ESEA, but also the “HCDE role during bill consideration.”



lobby098

For her third trip to Washington, DC  during that 14 month period,  “Republican” Trustees approved $1,575.00  of our county education dollars for Pat Strong to spend three nights at the Hilton Washington Hotel to attend the “National School Board Association Federal Relations Network Conference.”



Her HCDE Itinerary shows the event included:

Legislative Seminars on Advocacy”   and

Congressional Visits.”



There are other questionable practices found inside the documents from this open records request besides “Republican” Trustees approving county education funds for lobbying, expensive trips and questionable “meal” purchases.

Pat Strong is being PAID with COUNTY EDUCATION DOLLARS to attend regularly scheduled meetings of the HCDE Board of Trustees and the Houston City Council, both of which have meeting minutes available online. She is also being PAID with COUNTY EDUCATION DOLLARS to meet with various politicians and activist groups – groups like The League of Women Voters, One Voice, and the AFL-CIO.

To understand the concern I have with the  Monthly Status Reports Pat Strong filed with HCDE to justify her work as a County School Administrator, you must first take a close look at the clients she lists on her own company’s website.
lobby088



















Pat Strong’s Clients at Strong Strategies include:

HCDE

KIPP Houston

Houston City Council Members  Melissa Noriega (D)  & Sue Lovell (D)

Senator Rodney Ellis (D)

Congressman Al Green (D) 


lobby103




And according to Harris County campaign financial records

Harris County Attorney
 Vince Ryan (D)

is also a client of Strong Strategies.



Normally, none of this would be a concern.

But when you take a close look at the Monthly Status Reports Pat Strong filed with HCDE to justify her work as an HCDE Administrator, some red flags appear.






lobby089crop1



As you can see above,  Pat Strong  listed four  “external meetings” that  she attended on behalf of HCDE from Nov. 1 – 30, 2010.

But 7 of the 8 persons listed are connected to another Strong Strategy client or actually are themselves  Strong Strategy clients.

Sue Lovell is a client.

Terry O’Rourke is the First Assistant to client, Vince Ryan.

KIPP Houston, a client, employs Mike Feinberg, Chris Gonzales, Amy Ward, and Sharon Simpson.

Licia Green is the wife of client, Rodney Ellis.



lobby090crop1


And, when you look closely at the records from the trip Pat Strong took to Washington, DC for HCDE in September 2010 – a trip paid for with county education dollars – you can see that on Sept. 23, 2010, Pat Strong met twice in the same day with another of her own clients, Congressman Al Green.


lobby105
And the same problem is found again in her Quarterly Status Report covering April 1 – June 20, 2011. Of the 16 “external events and meetings” Pat Strong attended on behalf of The County School Trustees, 9 were with her other Strong Strategies clients or staff of those other clients.






Examples:

April 7, 2011 – Melissa Noreiga (D) “event”
May 17, 2011 – Vince Ryan (D) “event”
June 30, 2011 – Congressman Al Green (D) “event”

lobby104 

And what a coincidence to find that  HAR Connect  posted a fundraising reception honoring Congressman Al Green, a client of Strong Strategies,  on the exact same date that Pat Strong attended a Congressman Al Green “event” on  on behalf of the HCDE “Republican” Trustees.



lobby094Records show that 5 of the 6 Meetings Pat Strong listed on another Quarterly Status Report  - also dated April 1 – June 20, 2011, but listing July meetings - were affiliated with other Strong Strategy clients.

KIPP is a client.

2 Clients serve on Huston City Council.

Terry O’Rourke is an assistant to client, Vince Ryan.

Congressman Al Green is a client.

Sue Lovell is a client.


(NOTICE  (1) the dates on the top read April 1 – June 20, 2011 but the events say July. (2) after July 20, 2011 was blacked out by HCDE.)


Read closely the details of “Visits With Elected Officials” reported on July 5 + 20, 2011.  It lets us know that the “Republican” County School Trustees are not only paying Pat Strong to lobby in Washington, but paying her to take her own clients out for breakfast and lunch.

This is how the HCDE “Republican” Trustees choose to spend our county education dollars

But that is for the next story – just how far the “Republican” HCDE Trustees have swayed  from:

Example #3   Texas GOP Platform reads:

 Frugal Government – We encourage all governments and agencies to live as frugally as all taxpayers do and to abhor the excessive spending on non-critical items such as this administration has indulged in.”


Who are the 5 “Republican” HCDE Trustees?
chesnut3

Angie Chesnut (R)
Board President (Precinct 4)   
achesnut@hcde-texas.org


evans facebook photo

Louis D. Evans, III (R)
Board Vice-President  (Precinct 3)
levans@hcde-texas.org




morales facebook photo

LT. COL. (Ret.) Roy Morales (R)
(Precinct 1)
rmorales@hcde-texas.org



morris facebook photo cropped

Marvin W. Morris (R)
(Precinct 2)
mmorris@hcde-texas.org


wolfe

Michael Wolfe  (R)
(At Large)
mwolfe@hcde-texas.org